Chocolate and Gold Coins

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Address Web Page

Recently, my family moved from a house at the edge of Fairfax County to a more central location. One of the drawbacks of moving is that there are always dozens of people and organizations that need the new address and telephone numbers. You can never remember all of them. Even if you tell a company that you have moved, they might have your address in multiple locations. This happened to my wife’s W-2 form; her firm knows my wife address but the W-2 went to the wrong address. Luckily, the Post Office still forwards our mail.

To me, this seems like a completely unnecessary problem in the age of the Internet. Instead of giving a physical address and phone number, why not give a virtual address and phone number. In the C programming language, it would be a pointer to the address and phone number. The information would be kept in a database which you could access using a password and change the information at any time. Others that you want to give this information to would be given a read-only password and web address that contains this information. Firms and government agencies would run a program that weekly updates everybody’s contact information automatically.

Who would create this web page? I think it might have to be the Federal Government. They have the single biggest archive of contact information so they would have the greatest benefit from having such a service. Also, I don’t see a profit opportunity here. A free web page with contact information might be profitable if a lot of people went to that site and read the advertisements in the way that Yahoo and Google operate. But for this site to be useful, a computer program would take the information off of the site remotely, so no one would actually see the web page. Therefore, this web site would be a pure public good, which explains why it doesn’t already exist.

The other possibility is to charge a small fee for use. This would cover the cost of creating the database and creating the mechanism that extracts the data and puts it into your database automatically. Yahoo and Google would be able to do this, and several other companies as well. However, it might be difficult to get companies or individuals to pay since everyone would know most people would not want to use this service until it is well established and it won’t be well established until most people start using it. That’s why any such company would try to sell the idea to the Federal Government first.


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